Immediate past Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has cleared the air on his last minute decision to put himself forward for the position again, in the 9th Senate Session, insisting that he contested to protest the brazen Senate Invasion and subsequent theft of the Mace on the same day he was presiding over plenary in the Senate Chambers.
Addressing media men after the inauguration of the 9th Senate on Tuesday, June 11, and speaking on his loss to Senator Omo-Agege for the seat of Deputy Senate President
Deputy Senate Presidency, Senator Ekweremadu said: “I didn’t contest to win. The decision to contest for Deputy Senate President was in protest of the 2018 invasion of the Senate.”
Ekweremadu, who was reelected by the people of Enugu West Senatorial zone said it was ’embarrassing’ for the Senate to have as it’s Deputy Senate President a lawmaker who led thugs to the chamber and this was what informed his decision to contest for the position.
The former Deputy Senate President, who had been sporadically heckled noisily by some antagonists, as he started protesting the Senate invasion and Mace theft, while delivering his acceptance of nomination speech, during the inauguration formalities, reiterated the point of his protest against the APC Candidate’s nomination, while addressing journalist after inauguration of the 9th Senate had been concluded, stressing that his failure to clinch the deputy senate president position again does not matter.
“I believe there must be a referendum. Look at what happened on a day I was presiding and chambers invaded. It is embarrassing that someone who led that operation will take a bow and is endorsed and we all walk home like it doesn’t matter. I wanted a situation where we could present a referendum in respect of what transpired.” he said in a clear tone.
Shedding more light on his decision, Sen. Ekweremadu said: “Early this morning, we were not minded to run for any office, we thought that our friends in APC had agreed on a consensus candidate that we can all be proud of, we don’t want a situation where we will say what happened here and you came and endorsed same person as Deputy President of the Senate.”
Senator Ekweremadu had neither indicated interest nor campaigned for the position of Deputy Senate President, until few hours to the election of principal officers at the National Assembly, when it became obvious that former governor of Abia state and Senator-Elect representing Abia North Senatorial zone, Mr. Orji Uzor Kalu, had unceremoniously opted out of the race and was even reported as campaigning for the man he was supposed to be running against, having earlier raised all kinds of propaganda, including zonal marginalization of the South East, in presenting himself as the preferred alternative to Omo-Agege.
Though realizing it was late to pitch in, Ekweremadu, mindful of the political baggage his decision would attract and despite the fact that the situation on ground was totally different from the 2015 scenario, when he had also heroically stood in the gap to bridge what would have resulted in a fatal political hemorrhaging of the national Assembly, sufficiently convinced some of his colleagues on the need to have a referendum on the Senate Invasion and Mace theft.
Senators-elect Godfrey Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu North) and Rose Ako (Cross Rivers North), nominated and seconded him for the position and it is instructive that in losing to Omo-Agege with a 68 – 37 votes count, Senator Ekweremadu scored more votes than Senator Ali Ndume, who contested the Senate Presidency against Senator Ahmed Lawan and lost.
“We needed to exonerate ourselves. It was not a contest to win or lose, I wanted to make a statement,.” the ranking Senator said.
Assembly watchers will recall that on Wednesday, April 18, 2018, the Senate plenary Presided over by Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, was disrupted after suspected thugs invaded the chamber and made away with the mace.
Senator Ekweremadu had taken the Chair in the absence of Senate President Bukola Saraki, who had been surreptitiously lured out of Chambers by a police invitation over the Offa robbery case. Speculations had been rife at that time that the Senate was going to commence impeachment proceedings against President Buhari and the police invitation had been translated in some quarters as a ploy to destabilize the Senate.
The invasion incident happened few seconds after the then suspended senator, Ovie Omo-Agege, entered the chamber, with about 10 suspected thugs who allegedly came to the venue with the senator and forced their entrance into the chamber.
The thugs then made straight for the Mace, which is the symbol of authority of the Senate and ran out of the chamber with it causing pandemonium in the Senate and escaping into an unknown destination.
One of the security personnel at the entrance of the National Assembly said the thugs told him and other officers that they were with the senator, when they tried to stop them
The Mace was later found under an Abuja bridge towards the gateway out of the capital, by a team of police men on reconnaissance duty, thus creating the impression that the Mace thieves had headed out of town.
A National Assembly joint ad hoc committee in July 2018 recommended the suspension Omo-Agege for 180 legislative days over the theft of the Senate mace.
The committee also recommended that Omo-Agege be prosecuted for treasonable felony, assault on National Assembly members of staff, conspiracy to steal and eventual theft of the Senate Mace.
Despite being indicted by the Senate committee that investigated the incident, the APC lawmaker was not prosecuted and many had speculated that a supposed close relationship with the President had emboldened Omo-Agege to defy the Senate and continue attending plenary even when he had been suspended.
This same alleged close relationship with the President was also invoked boldly in the choice to pick him over Orji Uzor Kalu, who also reportedly enjoys some considerable affinity with President Buhari, but may have been compelled to step down from the Deputy Senate race, considering the corruption allegations over which he’s still embroiled in some serious legal battle with the EFCC.
Addressing his colleagues after his nomination and secondment, for the Deputy Senate Presidency, which had undoubtedly taken many Senators-elect and Senate watchers, including some of his own party members by surprise, and invoking echoes of 2015 in the same chamber, Ekweremadu told his colleagues not to vote for mace snatchers.
Though he did not mention any names, many knew Ekweremadu was making a veiled reference to Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, his main challenger, ,as he recalled that particular day in April 2018, when he was presiding over the Senate, one of their colleagues led people to snatch the mace, the symbol of authority of the National Assembly.
He asked his colleagues not to encourage injustice and illegality and vote their conscience.
The 9th Parliamentary session of the Senate was however inaugurated without any rancour or upheaval, and Senators Ahmed Lawan and Ovie Omo-Agege, took their oaths as Senate President and Deputy President respectively, after which they administered the oath to the other members.
However, there was an uproar at the beginning of proceedings, when a decision to adopt the secret ballot system for the election of presiding officers, was met with loud protests by some Senators-elect.
The noisy protests had started after the Clerk of the Senate, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, announced that the elections would be conducted using the 2015 standing order, which favours secret ballot.
But his decision was greeted with a spontaneos outbursts by some Senators-elect who had threatened to scuttle the process, citing an Abuja High Court judgment delivered a day before (Monday) which directed that the election should be by open ballot in tandem with provisions of the 2011 standing order.
Mr. Omolori was however firm in handling the situation. “Our sole business here today is conduct the elections to usher in a new leadership for the Senate as stipulated in the constitution.. We are not here to raise motions or entertain questions, but out of respect to all of you Senators-elect, I have allowed the question and answered you.
“No more question shall be entertained and no motion shall emerge. We are following the procedure as laid down in the provisions of your own standing order. You asked if I have received any Court order on the matter and my answer is NO.
“I have not been served and none of the national Assembly staff has been served with any Court judgment and you don’t expect me act on something I have not seen.
“Once again my answer is No, I have not been served with any court. We have serious business to do here today, So I plead with you to allow us, let’s get back to what we came here to do today. Thank you. Clerk of the Senate, please commence with the process,” Mr. Omolori declared with a firm finality that brooked no further challenge, till the process ended peacefully.